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Article – Why Social Media Horrors Are Horrifying In All The Wrong Ways


Posted May 3, 2016 by

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Why Social Media Horrors Are Horrifying In All The Wrong Ways

We all knew it was coming, where there is new technology there is an older generation who are convinced that this new gadget is the source of all evil. Whether it be video tapes in ‘The Ring’ or cell phones in ‘One Missed Call’, Hollywood has a history of making whatever is the current craze into something that should have us shaking in our boots. Now has come the age of the social media horror flick, with 2014’s Unfriended leading the charge followed by the newest offering Friend Request.

While I would argue that horror as a genre has become stagnant, and I as well as many other critics having long been calling for something new in the horror genre. Watching the killer come for the characters via Facebook was really not what I was looking for. Mostly because despite the new packaging these horror flicks offer us very little that is actually original.

Unfriended wasn’t great, but there was an air of novelty to it. With the entire movie happening real time, and a commitment to the whole thing happening on a laptop screen. There was at least an element of freshness to the MTV flick. While the plot was recycled and much like most horror films it was based around a series of 1D characters, being killed off in a series of jump scares. It was for a one time watch enjoyable and had it been a stand alone I might have been more positive about it. However Friend Request was not enjoyable, and with a sequel for Unfriended on the way I’m bracing myself for copy after copy of this trendy new idea.

This once again is nothing new, Hollywood always seeks to squeeze as much money out of an idea as it can. But if there was any trend that I was allowed to kill before it could really take off then it would be this one. Hollywood loves these social media movies, because first off they usually have built in product placement. For example Unfriended featured Apple, Skype, Spotify, and Gmail all clearly on screen. That kind of built in advertising model is great for studios who now make so much of their profit from advertising rather than the actual ticket sales. But it’s this same very in your face look at the products that has these movies feeling artificial to me, perhaps it’s the film student in me. But I found myself counting the product placement when I watched Unfriended for a second time. While this isn’t exactly unique to social media horrors, it doesn’t mean that it’s any less tiring for me as a viewer.

While Friend Request had any number of issues. From a poor script that seemed to be unsure of what tone it was actually going for, to it’s completely one dimensional characters, the biggest issue was that it lacked any appeal to the audience that it was trying to reach. While the main character was my age, it’s been a very long time since how many friends I have on facebook actually mattered to me. I’m not saying that I’m not equally glued to my phone, but the focus on Facebook seemed already out dated and there was nothing about Laura and her friends that made that particually relatable. Laura was your average horror movie protagnist, pretty, white and mildly idiotic. Just because we all know that the people in horror movies are known for making stupid decisions doesn’t make there decisions any less stuipid.

Glossing the same used up plots with a sprinkling of Skype noises and Facebook timelines isn’t going to save the horror genre and it didn’t make me warm to the film anymore than any other film of it’s kind just because it acknowledged social media’s presence in the world.

I know that all movies are fiction and that they often stretch the truth to further their plots, but the problem with making a film for millennials about millennials is that we all know that the FBI can track your IP address. So when Unfriended tells us that someone uploaded a video of Laura anonymously and nobody knows who sent it. All I was thinking was that the police could have easily traced that it was in fact Blair who posted it and she would have probably faced serious consequences then and there. They even reference tracking IP addresses later in the movie which only makes it seem more ridiculous that they wouldn’t know who the video had come from.

The same was true for friend request, when the FBI insisted that Laura delete her account and she told them that she couldn’t there was no way that they wouldn’t have made her do it right then and there in front of them. That’s kinda the point of being able to access the internet everywhere, that she would be able to pull out her phone and show them that she couldn’t delete the account. This is the issue with adults picking a subject that teens are so well versed in, how many times have we been forced through internet safety classes at school? How many assembles and lectures have we been given about cyberbullying and how you can be arrested for harassing people online? Answer, enough to know that most of these movies aren’t possible no matter how haunted your laptop.

Character motivation is another problem that these movies suffer from, either the characters are so unlikable that you wanted them to die [Unfriended] or they seem so innocent that you’re not sure why they’re suffering [Friend Request]. But either way neither emotion is strong enough to make me care about them really. I was rewatching Unfriended to write this article and it struck me just how horrible these people are made out to be. Their worst crime is by no means posting the video that lead to the entities suicide. Perhaps the chirpy Skype screen was enough to distract me the first time around, but upon a second viewing. The characters confess to Date Rape, to selling drugs and to having made a sex tape. I found myself wondering if they were going to talk about murder next.

While the issues of social media horror films are nothing really outside of the problems with most horror films, for me it is the issue of a lack of grounding in reality that makes them so unwatchable. These are the films claiming to represent the new generation, yet their lack of awareness for the rules makes them already seem dated. In a post Scream society, we should be looking at ways to break away from predictable horror tropes rather than finding new ways to dress them up. Honestly the real thing I find horrifying about these movies, is how fast they’re going to look dated.

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Cheyne Bee
Work Experience Contributor

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